Book review: Had it not been for Jo Roberts' stunning new book, Contested Land, Contested Memory, I might have paid less attention to the events in the Middle East.
As Israel continued its ground offensive into the Gaza Strip, Pope Francis urged Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to end the spiraling conflict.
The pontiff telephoned the two leaders Friday to express "his very serious concerns" only six weeks after both joined him at the Vatican for a historic prayer meeting.
Francis said he was concerned about the "climate of growing hostility, hatred and suffering" that was claiming many victims, resulting in "a serious humanitarian emergency," the Vatican said in a statement.
Praying for peace is never a useless exercise -- it keeps evil at bay and helps people not give in to violence, Pope Francis said.
In response to "tragic events" unfolding in the Middle East in early July, the pope delivered "a heartfelt appeal to continue to pray with persistence for peace in the Holy Land."
Pope's quotes: Some of our favorite quotes from Pope Francis
The continued meetings between the two religious leaders have provoked speculation about whether the two churches may one day be reunited after nearly 1,000 years of estrangement.
Pope Francis urged the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to act with courage and end what he called the "spiral of hatred and violence."
Making a Difference: Palestinians face many discriminatory challenges in Israel. To help correct these, an American priest has created the Holy Land Principles.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople may join Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres when they meet Pope Francis to pray for peace this weekend.
The Vatican's chief spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said Tuesday that the pope had invited the head of the Orthodox faith to join the Middle East leaders at a Vatican prayer summit to be held this Sunday.
“It's true that the pope invited him and wants him to come,'' Lombardi said. “I think he will come but so far we do not have an official confirmation.''
Pope Francis called on the world's Christians to pray with him for peace in the Middle East, help convince governments to come to the aid of refugees and pray for Christian unity.
While peace is a gift from God, it is also built out of the day-to-day handiwork of individuals: true "artisans of peace," who are capable of crafting fraternity and reconciliation with people of all cultures and religions, he said during his general audience Wednesday in St. Peter's Square.
Some reports said the leaders would meet as early as June 6, but the Vatican spokesman said "this great initiative" needs time to come together.